Attention swamp dwellers: The beatings will continue until morale improves

The Trump administration — like most before it — plans to reorganize the government. Good luck with that one, guys.

The director of the Office of Management and Budget said, to you and yours, “If you’re a really good federal worker, you should welcome the reorganization plan.” Which could be taken as if you are a really rotten, lazy, dirty you-know-what federal worker, you are not gonna like life after the reorganization.  Like maybe not be on Uncle Sam’s roster and payroll after a new system — designed to quickly weed out losers — kicks in.

The only thing most folks know, for sure, about future reorganizations is by looking at what happened in past house-cleanings by both Democrats and Republicans. Last month, we asked survivors of reorganizations past if they would tell us what it was like. We got lots of responses. All good. Different in some ways, but much alike in others. From time to time, we’ll pass them on. Check out what this long-suffering fed says:

“Hi Mike,

“I used to read your column faithfully when you wrote for the Post; it was very informative and always hit the nail squarely on the head of what was going on. I look forward to hearing the comments of others who have weathered previous reorganizations.

“I was at the Department of Education during the Reagan administration and as a relative neophyte to government, learned a great deal quickly about the political ramifications. I did training and organizational development, and our shop was used to helping people prepare for transitioning; many had been there their entire careers and were disadvantaged in terms of current skill sets and job hunting. We tried to place as many as possible, but it was difficult because of the bumping and retreating rights. Our unit was eventually moved to the literal basement of headquarters and had virtually no funds to do anything after that. The only thing that saved us was the NEA and other powerful constituent groups on the Hill, and believe it or not, our secretary who bucked everything Reagan had proposed and survived. The net effect of the reorganization was hyper-vigilance (rampant distrust and anxiety), low productivity and morale (people spent more time speculating, goofing off, and not doing work they believed was busywork). In the end, it was a bloody mess; complete waste of time and worse, destructive of people’s self-confidence and commitment.

“I spent another reorganization in the same organization some 20 years later, this time inspired by George W. Bush. Typical of that administration, everything was held in secret and no input from the employees. I was a branch chief and each of my team members was put on different teams, none of which had the skills and interests and even less interest to do. I was put on a team myself and supervised by none other than an intern, who had managed to win the favor of the political in charge. The effects were similar to the earlier one, ignoring every tenet of good management.

“Personally, I think the Trump administration, if it goes ahead with its execution orders, will follow suit of his two predecessors who tried to destroy productive agencies by undercutting its employees. Trump, however devious, is also a buffoon and probably will back down somewhat before his plan (assuming it is even approved) takes effect.

“Thanks for letting me spew stuff that is still embedded in memory. I am retired now and am glad to be out of the craziness I have experienced when administrations believe they have a mandate to reduce and reform government. It only makes the alligators that live in the swamp meaner.”

Caroline Shaffer

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

The largest set of Russian nesting dolls, or matryoshka, is a 51-piece set hand-painted by Youlia Bereznitskaia of Russia. The largest doll measures 1 feet 9.25 inches in height. The smallest is 0.125 inches tall.

Source: Guinness World Records

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